In the ancient capital of Nanjing, with more than 8 million people, it’s surprising to see the lack traffic congestion. Indeed, traffic seems manageable in comparison to similarly sized cities all across the world. While credit goes to smart city planning, scooters and bicycles, another factor is its efficient public transportation system. Indeed, the most important form of transportation is the Nanjing Metro subway.

About The Nanjing Subway

The fifth largest public transportation system in China, Nanjing Metro first opened in 2005. Today, it operates seven subway lines across more than 135 stations. With a system length of 260 km or more than 160 miles, the Metro is also one of the world’s longest subway systems. In fact, it even surpasses the lengths of international cities like Paris and Tokyo. With an annual average ridership of 800 million passengers, Nanjing Metro represents  half of the public transportation services. Moreover, according to the Nanjing Bureau of Statistics, it’s growing in popularity.

Learning How To Ride The Nanjing Subway

If you are accustomed to systems like Paris and Tokyo, it shouldn’t be difficult to get around the city. In fact you can see many prominent cultural attractions with ease. Take for instance, Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum and the solemn Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall. Be that as it may, if you have limited experience riding a subway, it might be difficult. With that in mind, the following are some helpful tips on how to take the subway and how to pay.

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The Subway System Map

Much like many of the world’s major subway systems, the Nanjing subway system map features multiple routes. In this case, the map displays its Line (route) number (eg. Line 1, Line 2) and  color code. For example Line 1 is blue and Line 2 is red). Also like other subway systems, each of the Metro’s subway lines is an end-to-end route. In other words, it has a starting and ending point, and with multiple stations name in between. This type of system makes it easy to figure out the direction of travel in order to a destination. In fact, it can be easy even without being familiar with the name of each subway station.

Sample Rides

As an example, look at Red Line 2. Here, it shows that there is are ending points at Youfangqiao and Jingtian Road. If you want to visit Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum from Olympic Stadium East via the Red Line 2, you determine the direction of the subway line. In this case, it would be northward towards Jiangtian Road. In addition, you must then stay on the subway train until reaching  Xiamfang/Dr. Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum station. A simpler example for you is taking the Green Line 3 southward from the Nanjing Railway Station. To illustrate, in the East Mozhou Road direction to Confucius Temple/Fuzmiao station.

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The Fare Structure

Also similar to other major subway systems, the Nanjing Metro has a ticketing or fare. In other words, fare is based upon the actual distance being traveled. In this case, the fare will be higher for a longer trip, such as beyond eight subway stations. Fortunately, the service in Nanjing and throughout China is far more affordable in comparison to Paris and Tokyo. Even further, it more affordable than most of the other world’s subway systems.

Understanding The System

Depending upon the length of stay and amount of service needed, a visitor can purchase one or more single ride tickets or a Nanjing Public Utility IC card for multiple rides. For simplicity purposes, the visitor can purchase single ride tickets with coins or ¥5 or ¥10 bills at vending machines located in subway stations. The tickets cost 2 yuan or about 29 cents for trips under the length of eight stations. Longer distances cost 4 yuan or 58 cents. Conversely, a visitor can use Nanjing Public Utility IC Card for multiple trips.

Top Attractions Listed By Subway Line & Station

A list of 10 of the most important attractions in Nanjing. All links have been revised or shortened for convenience and easier readability.

Confucius Temple /Qinhuai River

Located in the very popular Qinhuai Scenic Area, the Confucius Temple was originally built along the banks of the Qinhaui River. But the structure was destroyed in 1034 during the Song Dynasty. Rebuilt shortly thereafter, the temple survived through the Ming Dynasty and the Qing Dynasty. The current temple dates back to the 19th century and remains a place of worship to the iconic Chinese philosopher Confucius. He died in 479 BC, during the Spring and Autumn period.

Green Line 3 – Confucius Temple/Fuzimiao station

Sacred Path, Purple Mountain (credit: Randy Yagi)

Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum (Purple Mountain)

The Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum is the final resting place for the Hongwu Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang, the founder and first emperor of the Ming Dynasty. The mausoleum dates back to 1381 and was partially reconstructed in the mid-19th century. Visitors must not miss the breathtaking pedestrian walkway to the mausoleum, known as the Sacred Way, a 1.1-mile paved pathway featuring enormous statues of animals like camels, horses and elephants. One of the most photographed spots in Nanjing, an excellent time to visit the Sacred Way is during the peak of the fall colors season.

Red Line 2 – Muxuyuan Station or Purple Line 4 – Gangzicun station

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Nanjing City Wall

Built during the Ming Dynasty, the Nanjing City Wall is of the largest city walls in China and once the longest in the world. Taking 21 years to complete, the City Wall originally surrounded the ancient capital in an area covering 55 square kilometers or more than 21 square miles and reaches a height between 14-21 meters or 46-67 feet. Today, most of the 600 year old wall still stands and continues to be one of the most culturally important attractions of Nanjing.

Green Line 3 or Purple Line 4 – Jimingsi station

Thousand Buddha Hall, Usnia Palace, Niushoushan Cultural Park (credit: Randy Yagi)

Nanjing Niushoushan Cultural Park

First opened in late 2015, the Nanjing Niushoushan Cultural Park is one of the newest and most popular attractions in Nanjing. Located in an area that has been home to more than 30 Buddhist temples dated back from the Southern Dynasty to the Tang Dynasty, the site is considered to be one of the most important Buddhist sites of worship in the country and contains a wealth of treasures and breathtaking attractions. This includes the massive Usnia Palace, estimated to cover 136,000 square meters and a graced with lavish artwork, most notably the fascinating Chan Interest Garden and the suitably named Thousand-Buddha Hall.

Blue Line 1 to Ruanjian Dadado. Transfer to bus route 754 to East Entrance of Niushou Mountain Station

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Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall

The Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall is a moving tribute to the estimated 300,00 local residents who died during the worst atrocity of the Second-Sino Japanese War in 1937. Completed in 1985 and further extended 10 years later, the site covers an area of 28,000 square meters (302,400 square feet) and features several sculptures on the grounds, as well as a significant number of artifacts within the memorial and perhaps most importantly, contains one of the mass burial grounds of that tragic event in history.

Subway Line 2 – Yunjin Road station

Nanjing Sports Park

First opened in 2005, the Nanjing Sports Park was built for the second Summer Youth Olympics, attracting young athletes from all over the world during the summer of 2014. Covering an area of more than 400,000 square meters or 4.3 million square feet the massive facility features a 61,443-seat multi-purpose stadium, a 13,000-seat gymnasium, 4,000-seat aquatic complex and 4,000-seat tennis center.

Red Line 2 – Olympic Stadium East

Presidential Palace

Built during the Ming Dynasty to be a royal residence located near the Ming Palace, which was imperial palace in the 14th century and when Nanjing was the official capital of China. More recently the Presidential Palace was used as the Office of the President of the Republic of China from 1927 until the current presidential office moved to Taiwan in 1949. Now known as the China Modern History Museum since the late 1990s, it is the largest modern history museum in China.

Red Line 2 or Green Line 3 – Daxinggong station

Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum (Purple Mountain)

Quite possibly the premier attraction within the Purple Mountain Scenic Area, the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum is the final resting place of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the first president and founding father of the Republic of China.Completed in 1929, the magnificent mausoleum rests at the base of the second peak of Mount Zijin, also known as Purple Mountain. In order to reach the mausoleum, visitors must be able to climb nearly 400 stairs located just beyond the grand entrance of the Mausoleum Gate.

Red Line 2 – Xiamfang station

Xuanwu Lake

One of the most famous lakes in Nanjing, Xuanwu Lake is one of the most popular daytime destinations in Nanjing for residents and visitors alike. With a circumference of 15 km or 9.3 miles, the lake is encircled with a pedestrian walkway and typically filled with lively group fitness classes in the mornings and sightseers young and old all day long. The lake also features several sculptures, pagodas, temples, dining options and even a small zoo.

Blue Line 1 – Nanjing Railway Station or Xuanwu Gate

Zhonghua Gate

Also known as the South Gate of the Nanjing City Wall, Zhonghua Gate is known as the largest, castle-style city gate in China. Likely the most visited section of the City Wall, the South Gate features stone ramps and steps, allowing visitors to reach the top level pathway, with its sweeping views of the Nanjing city skyline.

About The Author

Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer who served as the National Travel Writer for CBS from 2012-2019. More than 900 of his stories still appear in syndication across 23 CBS websites, including CBS New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. During his peak years with CBS, Randy had a reported digital audience reach of 489 million and 5.5 million monthly visitors. Additionally, his stories have appeared in the Daily Meal, CBS News, CBS Radio, Engadget and Radio.com. He earned a Media Fellowship from Stanford University in 2012.

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